PORT WASHINGTON — A 24-year-old man died after kayaking in Lake Michigan Saturday morning. The Port Washington Fire Department tells FOX6 their boat crew pulled Peter Dougherty out of Lake Michigan just before noon on Saturday.
Dougherty was given CPR by emergency medical personnel on the way back to the marina and transported to Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, where he was later pronounced dead.
The first report of the incident came from a call by witnesses at 11:46 a.m. Visitors to the city’s lighthouse saw Dougherty in Lake Michigan, about 300 yards past the break wall of the city’s marina and east of the lighthouse.
Dougherty was kayaking in Lake Michigan Saturday morning, something he did often. However, his kayak was not with him when the first responders arrived. It has not been found yet.
“Considering what the state of the water was out there, there were five, six foot waves. We weren’t going to go back out there and look for a vessel,” Mark Mitchell, Port Washington’s fire chief said.
Dougherty was a kayaking instructor, a martial arts instructor and also a lifeguard. His godmother tells FOX6 News that he was an Eagle Scout that graduated from Port Washington High School in 2006.
An area south of the Port Washington Marina, called South Beach, is a popular spot where kayakers enter the lake. Port Washington police say that’s where Dougherty’s car was found with equipment to carry a kayak.
The U.S. Coast Guard out of Milwaukee also responded to the scene. They used their boat and a helicopter out of Traverse City, Michigan to try and make sure the man was in the water alone and there weren’t other people involved.
Dougherty is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister.
Funeral arrangements have been finalized for Dougherty. A visitation will be held on Friday, March 16th from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a funeral service to follow. The service will be held at Eernisse Funeral Home, located at 1600 W. Grand Avenue in Port Washington.
FOX6 News sat down with Dougherty’s father and his best friend on Sunday. Inside the Dougherty living room in Port Washington, through the tears, there were moments of laughter. Dougherty’s friends and family members say that is how Dougherty would have wanted it. Those that love Dougherty say he was a caring, loving person and he was very adamant about peace and harmony. They say he loved teaching and guiding people, and kayaking was “his thing.”
Michael Defenbaugh was one of Dougherty’s best friends. He describes Dougherty as a man with an infectious personality – willing to go out of his way to help others, and not being afraid to take a risk. “He’s always had an affinity for (kayaking), as far as I know. He just never wanted to say no to an adventure,” Defenbaugh said.
Dougherty’s love of kayaking possibly ended his life, but friends and family say he wouldn’t have had it any other way. They say Dougherty died in a place he would go to find peace – the open water. “It’s those times out in nature that I’m really going to remember him by,” Defenbaugh said.
Dougherty’s family says support from the community has been amazing. Funeral arrangements are currently underway. Friends say a charity kayaking paddle may also be in the works this summer.